FUKUOKA – Ozeki Asashoryu became the first Mongolian to win the Emperor’s Cup after defeating sekiwake Wakanosato on Friday to secure the title at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
The 22-year-old moved his record to an unbeatable 12-1 with two days remaining after dumping Wakanosato (6-7) in the dirt in the final bout at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
Asashoryu’s overall victory comes just 24 tournaments after his sumo debut at the 1999 New Year basho, equaling Takanohana’s record of the quickest-ever title since the present format of six meets a year was introduced in 1958.
“I’m so pleased I don’t really know what to say. There seem to be so many things I have done for the first-time ever,” said Asashoryu, whose only loss came at the hands of rank-and-filer Tochinonada on Wednesday.
“I wasn’t in great shape before the start of the tournament, but I’ve given everything I’ve got.”
Wakanosato seemed to get the edge over a nervous-looking Asashoryu at the charge, taking a firm grip on the Mongolian’s belt and working him to the edge of the ring.
But the fiery ozeki, who has given a fine display of his many talents throughout the 15-day meet, once again pulled out, wrapping his left leg around the sekiwake and forcing him down for the win.
The title here means Asashoryu will push for promotion to yokozuna next year although his path to the Emperor’s Cup was eased by the absence of four of the top wrestlers.
Yokozuna Takanohana withdrew two days before the start of the meet and was followed by fellow grand champion Musashimaru, who exacerbated a wrist injury and pulled out after five days. Ozeki duo Kaio and Chiyotaikai were also forced to sit out with injuries.
Elsewhere, Tochiazuma (8-5), who has come back strongly to stave off relegation after losing four early bouts, was outfoxed by Musoyama (9-4) in an all-ozeki bout.
Sekiwake Kotomitsuki kept up his hopes of a winning record by shoving out No. 5 maegashira Shimotori, which left both grapplers on an identical 6-7.
Dejima got one over top-dog maegashira Takanonami (8-5) in a clash between two former ozeki.
The 10th-ranked maegashira has struggled since falling from sumo’s second rank last year but showed signs of his old form in muscling out the veteran grappler to take his record to 9-4.